27 February, 2007

I just discovered Kathy Reichs

As I've been blogging about lately, one of the things that I've been doing to help with my depression is to read. I guess one of the things that this does for me is keep my mind off a lot of the stressors that are in my life right now. Additionally, it helps keep my mind focused, and as I've blogged about, I find a lot of things in books to be applicable to or reflective of my life, or more generally, there are passages that "speak" to me. Two of the authors that I've been reading a lot lately have been Sue Grafton and Patricia Cornwell. Because the selection of books that I have not yet read by these female authors has dwindled, I recently asked a librarian if she could recommend something else to me along the same genre/style of the two woman powerauthors, and she recommend Kathy Reichs. I picked out Death du Jour and within a few pages, I was in love.

Reichs, like Cornwell, is employed in the forensics field. In addition to being an author of great caliber, she's a forensic anthropologist in North Carolina and Quebec. Additionally, like Grafton and Cornwell, her characters are well-formed, three dimensional representations of individuals that you could swear you've known about for quite some time. Take, for instance, the following passages:

"Do you have a religion, Dr. Brennan?"
"I was raised Roman Catholic, but currently I don't belong to a
church."
The ghostly eyes looked into mine.
"Do you believe in God?"
"Dr. Jeannotte, there are some days I don't believe in tomorrow
morning."

One of the things that I haven't really talked about is my spiritual affiliation. Like the main character in the novel, I was raised Roman Catholic, but don't currently have a religious affiliation; I consider myself spiritual. And like Dr. Bennet, my depression has me to the point where there are many, many days wherein I can't conceptualize there being a tomorrow morning for me.
"You've heard of subversion myths? Anthropologists love to discuss
these."
I dug back to a grad school seminar on mythology. "Blame giving.
Stories that find scapegoats for complicated problems."
"Exactly. Usually the scapegoats are outsiders -- racial,
ethnic, or religious groups that make others uneasy. Romans accused early
Christians of of incest and child sacrifice. Later Christian sects accused one
another, then Christians pointed the same finger at Jews. Thousands died because
of such beliefs. Think of the witch trials. Or the Holocaust. And it's not just
old news. After the student uprising in France in the late sixties, Jewish
shopkeepers were accused of kidnapping teenage girls from boutique dressing
rooms."

Full of useful information. As you may be aware, anthropology is the study of humanity, and this may explain why I find these books to be so fascinating, as they really delve into the human condition.

One of the things about Reich that I found somewhat irritating is that she held out. What I mean by this is that she didn't reveal the plot as the story was revealed; there were certain aspects that she kept "mysterious" and didn't reveal until almost the end of the book. For instance,

I told her Elisabeth's skeleton was packed and ready, and that the report
was being typed. She said the bones would be picked up first thing Monday
morning.
"Thank you so much, Dr. Brennan. We await your report with great
anticipation."
I did not avail myself of the opening. I had no idea how
they'd react to what I'd written.
Now, she's been alluding to some finding for quite a few chapters, but has yet to reveal, exactly, what this suspicion of hers is. It's a tease, of course, and meant to keep the reader engaged but, trust me, with her writing, she really doesn't need to use such an obvious ploy.

Another passage that spoke to me:
Though age has mellowed Sam, I doubt that it will ever
change his discomfiture at social interaction. It isn't that he doesn't want to
participate. He does. His seeking the office of mayor proves that. Life just
doesn't operate for Sam the way it does for others. So he buys bikes and wings
for flying. They provide stimulation and excitement, but remain predictable and
manageable. Sam Rayburn is one of the most complex and intelligent people I have
ever met.


I, too, find the need for life to stimulate me. One of the things that I used to do to find this stimulation was drive fast. Safely, but definitely fast. My last car, the Pontiac Grand Prix GTP Comp G, allowed me to do this, quite safely.

Here's another example of the annoying "toy with the reader so the reader will continue reading" ploys that Reich employs:
Sam dragged a ladder from under the field house and
propped it against the trailer. He brushed away spiderwebs, tested his weight on
the first rung, then climbed up.

"What the hell?"
"What?"
"Sonofabitch."
"What is it?"

He rotated something in his hand.
"I'll be goddamned."
"What is it?" I tried to see what
the monkey had dropped, but Sam's body obscured my view.

Sam stood motionless at the top of the ladder, his head
bent.

"Sam, what is it?"
Without a word he climbed down and held the object out for
my inspection. I knew instantly what it was and what it meant, and felt the
sunshine go out of the day.

I met Sam's eyes and we stared at each other in
silence.

[End of chapter]
Not to sound ungrateful, but couldn't she tell the reader what it was that was found before ending the chapter?

Well, I guess when a writer is able to evoke such emotion out of an individual, it merely is a testament as to the high quality of her writing. So if you like Grafton and Cornwell, by all means, check out Reichs. I did, and I'm glad. I hope you will be, too.

22 February, 2007

QOTD

Who we are is who we were and the more things change, the less they
do, unless we start with our hearts. ~Trooper Truth, character in
Patricia Cornwell's novel, Isle Of Dogs.

--
--
PCF
http://petercfrank.blogspot.com

13 February, 2007

It's Started

Well, here it comes. The snow has finally started falling. Let's see
if it actually last this time. If it does, I'll post pictures.

--
--
PCF
http://petercfrank.blogspot.com

12 February, 2007

An Unselfish Act

The other day, when I was getting out of work, I couldn't find my
metrocard to get on the subway. Just my luck, right? So I went into
the station with my last twenty dollar bill in hand, hoping to buy a
ten dollar metrocard with the twenty. As luck would have it, I got all
the way down the stairs and the entrance I had picked didn't have a
token booth, only the vending machines selling metrocards. I tried to
purchase a ten dollar card with my twenty dollar bill, but the
machines will only give out a maximum of six dollars in change! I
didn't want to buy a twenty dollar card as then I'd have no money
left, yet I needed to get back to where I was staying. so I started
asking people if they had change of a twenty. This one lady stopped
and looked, and apologized that she didn't have change. Then I guess
she saw that I was walking with a cane, and asked if I just needed a
swipe to get on the subway. It took me a minute to realize what she
was asking me, as it totally took me off guard. It's not that I'm so
shocked by random acts of kindness by strangers in New York; rather,
one can get in trouble for swiping someone else in using your
metrocard so I really wasn't expecting the offer. Anyway, I just
wanted to thank the kind lady who allowed me to get home after a long
night's work. When I got off the subway, I was able to get a ten
dollar metrocard from the token booth clerk at my destination stop.
This lady's kindness saved me from having to go up all those stairs
and back down just as many (stairs are one of the most difficult
obstacles for me to navigate, what with my bad leg and all) into
another subway entrance where I would have been able to buy a ten
dollar card from a booth clerk using my twenty dollar bill. Ah, the
trials and tribulations of being in New York City. :-)

--
--
PCF
http://petercfrank.blogspot.com

09 February, 2007

New York State to Ban Pedestrian Use of Handheld Devices?

A New York state senator has announced his plan to introduce legislation that would ban the use of electronic devices such as iPods, BlackBerrys and cell phones while crossing streets in major cities.

State Sen. Carl Krueger, a Democrat who represents New York's 27th district in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, claimed that the phenomenon of "iPod oblivion" has led to a number of fatal accidents on urban streets. While he did not cite any statistical studies that have indicated a rise in such incidents, he referred to the January death of a 23-year-old Brooklyn man who, tuned into his iPod headphones, walked into the path of a city bus.

Very recently, I briefly blogged about the various levels of judicial review, which is the process that judges in appellate courts apply when determining whether or not a governmental action is or is not constitutional. Judicial review isn't a power of the courts that is spelled out in any law. Rather, it is found in common law, and essentially it is a power that the United States Supreme Court gave itself and other appellate courts. However, common law isn't something that the Supreme Court Justices created out of thin air; common law has a long history in the British (England's) legal system. Most American common law is based on and derived from the English common law system.

As any first year law student would be able to tell you, the first instance of judicial review in the United States is generally and widely accepted to have been created by common law in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), wherein the Court reasoned that it had the authority to review and declare constitutional or unconstitutional acts of the other two branches of government. The actual underlying issue in the case was not very complex; however, in order to reach a decision about it, the court first had to determine whether or not it had the authority to make such a determination in the first place. Thus was born the concept of judicial review. There's a great article that goes into a very good explanation of the case, and why something decided more than two hundred years ago is still quite relevant to this day.

Now, as I just blogged about, there are three levels of judicial review: rational basis (the government must show that the challenged classification/law is "rationally related" to serving a "legitimate state interest"), intermediate scrutiny (the government must show that the challenged classification/law serves an "important state interest" and that the classification/law is "substantially related" to serving same), and strict scrutiny (as before, the classification/law must serve a "compelling state interest" and the classification/law serves a "required state interest" (or that the classification/law is required to serve same). It is this last level of scrutiny -- strict scrutiny -- that I believe should be applied to determining whether or not this proposed law would be constitutional; however, I also will look at the law under rational scrutiny (intermediate scrutiny is pretty much reserved to cases where one's sex is a factor in government action).

As a reminder, there are three "prongs" to the strict scrutiny test:

  1. The classification/law must be justified by a compelling state interest;
  2. The law/policy must be narrowly tailored to meet this compelling state interest; and
  3. the law/policy must use the least restrictive means to achieve such compelling state interest.

Now, this isn't an either/or situation. In order to survive a strict scrutiny standard of judicial review, all three prongs of the test must be satisfied. So let's take a look at this piece of legislation that New York State Senator Carl Krueger has proposed and apply the strict scrutiny test:

  1. The compelling state interest is the safety of the state's citizens: PASS.
  2. I can't seem to locate the actual proposed bill on the Senate's web site. If someone can find it, then I can take a look and see how it's tailored: UNCERTAIN.
  3. Banning all forms of electronic devices while crossing a street is an extremely restrictive means of ensuring the public's safety, especially as there are other, less restrictive means of accomplishing the same goal (for instance, a law could be passed requiring pedestrians to look both ways before crossing the street, or to pay attention to traffic while crossing a street, or to use assistance while crossing the street (e.g., for the visually impaired), etc.) FAIL.

Because this legislation cannot survive just one of the three prongs of the strict scrutiny test, I do not believe that it would be constitutional. Unfortunately, however, if this legislation were to become law and be challenged, the court most likely would use a rational basis standard of review, as that is the default for governmental action, and crossing the street is not a guaranteed constitutional right (although one could make the argument that government is restricting one's liberty and pursuit of happiness, in which case strict scrutiny would kick in).

Under a rational basis standard of review, the government need only show that what it is doing is rational and related to a legitimate state purpose. Protecting the public safety is a legitimate state purpose, and one could argue that preventing people from using electronic devices, thus forcing them to pay attention to the street crossing and not otherwise, is rational.

As a civil libertarian, this legislation is quite disturbing to me, and my only hope would be that the court can be convinced to use a strict scrutiny standard of review based on the legislation attempting to infringe upon one's constitutionally-protected right to the freedom of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

05 February, 2007

The Fight Continues in California for Same-Sex Marriage

I'm glad to see that the typically Californian modus operandi of being laid back, easy-going, c'est la vie is taking a back seat in the struggle for those gay couples wishing to marry and thereby obtaining equal rights and treatment under the law. As a form of protest, a very smart, sassy, and ingenious Yolo County Clerk employee (Freddie Oakley -- she's the person responsible for issuing marriage licenses) is standing up for equal rights under the law and, in concert with various other demonstrations and protestations that will occur this year on Valentine's Day, she will offer a "Certificate of Inequality" for same-sex couples seeking a marriage license, which cannot be obtained under current state law in California (well, not just California; only Massachusetts allows for same-sex marriage, and even that right is under attack).

Quoth one article,

The woman who oversees civil marriage in Yolo County is planning to issue "certificate of inequality" to same-sex couples on Valentine's Day. It's her way of protesting California's ban on gay marriage. They will say, "I issue this Certificate of Inequality to you because your choice of marriage partner displeases some people whose displeasure is, apparently, more important than principles of equality."
What's really cool about Ms. Oakley's action is that, unlike most other municipal employees who take some sort of action in protest of what are (in my opinion) unconstitutional bans on same-sex marriage, Ms. Oakley isn't gay. As this article explains, she's married, has kids, the 2.7 dogs, and probably a white picket fence in front of her house. Oh, and get this: she's an Evangelical Christian. So there are actually religious people out there who are intelligent and can use their brains.

Quoth she, "I don't think that religion belongs at the office. I think it's wrong. I don't go down and tell my pastor how to preach and I don't want him to stand behind my counter[.]" In another article, she states, "I don't give up my right to exercise the First Amendment by assuming county office[.]"

Kudos, Ms. Oakley, and many thanks. I just wish more Americans could see the logic, and legality, of her position.

Lest we forget why being able to marry is important, let's take a look at some of the legal and non-legal consequences that can depend on marital status:

  1. A New York judge has ruled that a Long Island lesbian cannot sue the man responsible for the accident that killed her partner because their relationship is not recognized by New York State law. ... In his ruling in the Saegert case Judge Daniel Palmieri noted that an unmarried opposite-sex couple also would not be recognized under the law.
    The difference, say LGBT rights attorneys, is that opposite-sex couples could marry if they wished while same-sex couples are denied that right in New York State. (Full Story)
  2. Getting married enhances mental health, especially if you're depressed, according to a new U.S. study. (Full article, Related article). More information is contained in this article, which states, "A US study of more than 125,000 men and women revealed married couples suffer fewer mental health problems than those who never married or got divorced."
  3. As of January 31, 1997, there were 1,049 federal laws where marital status is a factor in the law, pertaining either to benefits, rights, privileges, or responsibilities of married couples. On January 31, 1997, the United States General Accounting Office issued a report (PDF) wherein the United States Code was searched for "laws in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status." (Note: this report has been updated (PDF) as of January 23, 2004 to 1,138 federal laws; I probably should devote an entire post to the updated report).
  4. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding that marriage is a "basic civil right" (aka a Fundamental Right) and, therefore, any restrictions placed upon marriage must be subject to a standard of legal review called strict scrutiny -- the most stringent form of judicial review -- to determine whether such restrictions can be deemed constitutional. "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men." (Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)) In order to pass a strict scrutiny standard of judicial review, a three-prong test is used:
    1. The law or policy must be justified by a compelling governmental interest;
    2. The law or policy must be narrowly tailored to meet such compelling governmental interest; and
    3. The law or policy must be the least restrictive means of achieving such compelling governmental interest.
  5. As I've previously blogged, I believe that the prohibition of same-sex marriage violates United States law (specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).
  6. Same-sex marriages are allowed when one partner is transgendered (e.g., a MtF marrying a woman). (A whole separate issue arises out of transgendered people and marriage.)

I'm certain that there are more and further ramifications but for now, this should give you something to ponder. If there's something you think I've overlooked, by all means, leave a comment!

For my Gather.com friends, here's a link back to my post there so you can comment.

03 February, 2007

Microsoft in hot water over Wikipedia edits - CNN.com

Y'know, it's bad enough that Microsoft is trying to kill Linux. But now we have them trying to revise history. I really have to wonder about the level of intelligence of the general public who thinks that Microsoft is such hot shit. If Microsoft believes that there is misinformation or inaccurate information in the Wikipedia article, then there are steps that they can take, as outlined by the folks at Wikipedia, to correct such information. But no, they decide to go ahead and try to get around Wikipedia's ban on public relations firms editing Wikipedia pages/information by paying a Wikipedia user to make the edits. How low will Microsoft sink? Let's take a look, shall we?
  1. Microsoft executives pondered whether to remove the company's name from a 2002 report done by research firm IDC that touted Windows total cost of ownership over Linux, according to e-mail messages entered into evidence in an Iowa antitrust case. (Read more)
  2. Microsoft risks a new showdown with EU regulators with the roll-out of its Vista operating system nearly three years after a landmark antitrust ruling against the US software giant, officials have said. (Full story)
  3. In response to antitrust concerns from the European Commission, Microsoft last week said third-party security software will be able to interact with the kernel of 64-bit versions of Vista. Security companies had requested that capability, but Microsoft had denied it until it capitulated under pressure from regulators. (Full story)
  4. And finally, we have more in the way of Microsoft trying to kill Linux, with "Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has claimed that Linux infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property. This follows news of the Microsoft/Novell alliance announced earlier this month, that will provide support for Novell's SUSE Linux running on Windows machines, and the promise that Microsoft will not sue SUSE users and developers for patent violations." (Full story)
Here's the story on the Wikipedia fiasco:

Microsoft Corp. has landed in the Wikipedia doghouse after it offered to pay a blogger to change technical articles on the community-produced Web encyclopedia site.

While Wikipedia is known as the encyclopedia that anyone can tweak, founder Jimmy Wales and his cadre of volunteer editors, writers and moderators have blocked public-relations firms, campaign workers and anyone else perceived as having a conflict of interest from posting fluff or slanting entries. So paying for Wikipedia copy is considered a definite no-no.

"We were very disappointed to hear that Microsoft was taking that approach," Wales said Tuesday.

Microsoft in hot water over Wikipedia edits - CNN.com

Good for a laugh

Say you've had a really hard day. You come home, and find yourself trying to sit down for some good ol' R&R, or P&Q, or whatever it is that you're searching for, and your phone just won't stop ringing. And it's not important people calling you, it's those pesky telemarketers. Well, maybe you'll want to try soething along these lines.

Or, if you just need a good laugh, then have a listen. It's a flash thing, I think, with audio, but a visual transcript, and it's fairly safe for work (I think the harshest word they use is "ass"). I thought it was hilarious. YMMV (your mileage might vary). But have a listen anyway. Let me know what ya think.

How to prank a telemarketer.

Books, Books, Books

OK, as I mentioned in one of my last posts, I've been reading a lot. Specifically, I've read a lot of the Alphabet Mystery Series by novelist Sue Grafton. One of the greatest things I love about the Kinsey Millhone mysteries is that her character virtually grows out of the page. I was going to say that it leaps off the page but that's a little cliché, don't ya think? Anyway, her books aren't fast paced at all. In fact, one might say that they can, at times, be painfully slow in plot development. But one doesn't read Sue Grafton's novels for plot; one reads them for the sheer joy and passion of reading. The characters in her novels are so well-formed, three-dimensional, that it makes me feel as though I could literally reach into the book and touch them. Not to mention, she has a great insight into the human psyche. Oh, and did I mention that I could totally see my friend, Stacey, as heroine Kinsey Millhone?

I just finished reading Patricia Cornwell's Cause of Death. Like Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell is a novelist writing a series of mysteries/thrillers, who has as her protagonist a female heroine, one Dr. Kay Scarpetta (who also is an attorney). Dr. Scarpetta is an doctor/attorney who serves as Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia. She has a lesbian niece, Lucy, who is an FBI agent. Along with Lucy, there's a gruff NYC-styled cop who's now captain somewhere in Virginia, and an FBI SAC who does "profiling." These four main characters form the basis of most of Cornwell's novels and, like Grafton, they're created in three-dimensional form through words on the page.

What I really love about Cornwell's books is the attention to technical detail and procedural detail, both medical and legal. I marked four passages in this book that gave me pause:
He stared at Edding's face and his own got sad. "It's like when kids end up in here or that basketball player who dropped dead in the gym the other week." He looked at me. "Does it ever get to you?"
"I can't let it get to me because they need me to do a good job for them," I said as I made notes.
"What about when you're done?" He glanced up.
"We're never done, Danny," I said. "Our hearts will stay broken for the rest of our lives, and we will never be done with the people who pass through here."
"Because we can't forget them." He lined a bucket with a viscera bag and put it near me on the floor. "At least I can't."
"If we forget them, then something is wrong with us," I said.
This was an exchange between Dr. Scarpetta and one of a morgue assistant during an autopsy, and the sentiment expressed here, while particular to the people who pass before them on the autopsy table, for me at least, is much broader than that. One of the problems that I've had, especially as it relates to my depression, is that (in the same year of my accident) I lost three people who were very dear to me, within as many months. That's an average of one person per month. My grandmother (who raised me served, essentially, as surrogate mother to me) and my friends Tanya and Ross (in that order) all departed from corporeal existence within a temporal span of less than 90 days.

It's hard enough losing one person, but three, within such a short period of time? Not to mention that, at the time, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center had only recently occurred, so there was more loss there. It's a lot to handle, especially when you're already depressed, and doped up on painkillers that are making the depression even worse. So unlike Scarpetta, though, the loss of these individuals has gotten to me, and I've been stuck ever since. I think I'm finally beginning to move on now, though, as I've realized that I can move on and still keep them alive in my memory, without forgetting them.

Next, we have this little gem:
She paused, then added with a sigh, "You know, at first I was pissed when the [FBI] Academy decided to send me back to UVA for a month. But it may end up being a relief. I can work in the lab, ride my bike and job around the campus like a normal person."
Lucy was not a normal person, nor would she ever be. I had decided that in many sad ways, individuals with IQs as high as hers are as different from others as are the mentally impaired. ...
I happen to have an IQ that is probably higher than most in the country. People always assume that because I'm intelligent, I should be able to do certain things or act in a certain way or now about certain things. But in reality, there are many aspects of humanity that are foreign to me, so I relate very strongly to this passage. Most times, human behavior is a huge enigma to me, as smart as I am. But I've never pretended to know everything about everything. In fact, if one were to ask me, I would say that I really don't know all that much, and what little I do know is limited to certain key areas, such as technology, the law, etc.

Next up is another dialogue between Dr. Scarpetta and her niece, Lucy:
"I'm sorry," I said. "I'm not sure I know what to say except that the problem lies with them and not with the two of you."
"I don't know what she's going to do. It's bad enough that we have to worry about the Bureau finding out."
"You have to be strong and true to who you are."
"Whoever that is. Some days I don't know." She got more upset. "I hate this. It's so hard. It's so unfair." She leaned her head against my shoulder. "Why couldn't I have been like you? Why couldn't it have been easy?"
"I'm not sure you want to be like me," I said. "And my life certainly isn't easy, and almost nothing that matters is easy. You and Janet can work things out if you are committed to do so. And if you truly love each other."
In this passage, Lucy's girlfriend had just come out to her parents, who, suffice it to say, weren't very supportive. But Lucy's aunt, the good Dr. Kay Scarpetta, is more than supportive. My grandmother, after getting over the initial shock, was extremely supportive of me. I remember one time when she got very upset because I wrote a letter to the editors of our local newspaper about an issue of importance to us LGBT people: inclusion of "sexual orientation" in the county's soon-to-be-enacted human rights law, and my name and town were published. She became quite upset with me for allowing my name to be published, and after a very short period of time, I learned that the reason for her being so upset was that she worried that some "knucklehead" (as she stated) would find out where I lived, come to the house, and beat me up as I was walking out the front door, or throw rocks through the windows, or some other harm would come to me. After a long talk, she realized the importance of, and the strength of my conviction for, this law, and a few days later asked to accompany me to a public hearing so that she could testify in favor of passage of the law affording protection to those based on "sexual orientation." Tears come to my eyes every time I think about this.

Additionally, Scarpetta's statement that "nothing that matters [in life] is easy" is something that I have mixed feelings about. I know that in general, in terms of politics and society and what not, change requires lots of work, and nothing comes easy. But in terms of my life, I think that one of the problems I'm having now is that before my accident, I didn't encounter too many problems in life. Sure, there were difficulties, but things always had a way of working themselves out to a point that I could get along with. But now, it just seems that every little thing is such a tremendous struggle. I'm not sure whether things have actually changed in such a fashion or if it's just my perception (although I suspect it's probably a bit of both), but very little has worked out in my favor as of late.

Finally, here's something that my friend Christopher can relate to (as can anyone else who's been on some sort of psychiatric medication, aka crazy meds):
"Which medication? Your adrenergic blocker or the finasteride? And no, I didn't know."
"Both."
"Now why would you do anything that foolish?"
"Because when I'm on it nothing works right," he blurted out. "I quite taking it when I started dating Molly. Then I started again around Thanksgiving after I had a checkup and my blood pressure was really up there and my prostate was getting bad again. It scared me."
"No woman is worth dying for," I said. "And what this is all about is depression, which you're a perfect candidate for, by the way."
"Yeah, it's depressing when you can't do it. You don't understand."
"Of course I understand. It's depressing when your body fails you, when you get older and have other stressors in your life like change. And you've had a lot of change in the past few years."
"No, what's depressing," he said, and his voice was getting louder, "is when you can't get it up. And then sometimes you get it up and it won't go down. And you can't pee when you feel like you got to go, and other times you go when you don't feel like it. And then there's the whole problem of not being in the mood when you got a girlfriend almost young enough to be your daughter." He was glaring at me, veins standing out in his neck. "Yeah, I'm depressed. You're fucking right I am."
That paragraph about getting older and having other stressors in your life and having been through a lot the past few years and suffering from depression as a result therefrom pretty much describes me. It's so odd how I can relate to characters in a book better than most people I meet on the street.

As for what's next, I'm currently reading Chill Factor, by Sandra Brown.

02 February, 2007

QOTD

The future belongs to those who
believe in the beauty of their dreams.


~ Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), former First Lady (US) and Humanitarian

I don't know why, but I just found this to be very moving. And I can't even remember where I heard the quote, but I think it was a PBS show, or something like that. For more information about Eleanor Roosevelt, check out the following web sites:

Here we go again, record profits by US oil companies

And one wonders why we're still paying $2.50 or more per gallon of gasoline in New York (check out the prices in Westchester localities, like White Plains, Irvington, Rye, Scarsdale, etc.). This shit just pisses me the hell off. I mean, as you may recall, was it not Exxon Mobil who posted record profits for any US company last year, as well? One might think that these oil companies would lower their gasoline prices but, noooooo, they have to keep posting record profits for any US company in history, year after year.

One might think that technology companies would be the ones posting record profits, or high profits, given today's tech-driven society. However, it's all about the oil companies, the hungry, greedy, bastardous oil companies, for whom we have gone to war in Iraq.

Exxon Mobil Corp. Thursday reported the biggest annual profit on record for a U.S. corporation - earning more than $75,000 every minute of 2006 on the back of record oil prices. The world's biggest publicly traded company by revenue posted net earnings of $39.5 billion on revenue of $377.6 billion last year, topping its previous profit record.

(emphasis supplied) Unfortunately for the tech sector, the first entry by any US company is IBM, ranked 10th on the Fortune 500, in terms of revenue/profit/etc. Technology barely made an entry in to the top 10 -- how astounding is that? I mean, it's usually retail, pharmaceuticals, and technology, right? Hell, Exxon Mobil managed to knock WalMart off the #1 spot, in a mere two years. I wonder if someone can pull up the Fortune 100 from the year 2000 and see where all these companies ranked. It would be interesting to see, don't ya think? Actually, I can put that together relatively easily:

2000

  1. General Motors
  2. Wal-Mart Stores
  3. Exxon Mobil
  4. Ford Motor
  5. General Electric
  6. Intl. Business Machines
  7. Citigroup
  8. AT&T
  9. Altria Group
  10. Boeing

2006

  1. Exxon Mobil (XOM)
  2. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT)
  3. General Motors (GM)
  4. Chevron (CVX)
  5. Ford Motor (F)
  6. ConocoPhillips (COP)
  7. General Electric (GE)
  8. Citigroup (C)
  9. American Intl. Group (AIG)
  10. Intl. Business Machines (IBM)

So we can now see that in the year 2000, Exxon Mobil was in the top 10, but they were the only oil company there. In the year 2006, three of the top ten are oil companies. In 2000, three of the top ten were technology companies (AT&T, GE, IBM). In 2006, only one. So technology and oil have flip-flopped in the span of just over the duration of the Iraq war. Interesting, very interesting ....

I've been out of politics for too long

OK, this one kind of snuck up on me, and it just goes to show that I've been out of politics for too long. In fact, I've probably been out of life for too long, but that just goes to show what depression will do to a person. So I was just reading my local paper online when I noticed an article about a possible conflict of interest in the hiring of the domestic partner of the Mayor of the Town of Ossining. I mean, aside from Bill Schmidt, who recently lost re-election to the Common Council of the City of Peekskill, I didn't think there were any other openly gay elected officials in Westchester County. In fact, I didn't even know that Councilman Schmidt lost his re-election bid.

So politically, I'm out of it. Emotionally, well, that's a given. And socially, it seems that after my car accident in 2002, most of my friends have dropped off the face of the earth, or at least it appears that way, as I'm in touch with relatively few of them, as compared to before my accident. I have no idea where the majority of them are or what they're doing, or even if they're alive.

And speaking of whether or not my friends are still alive, that's a bit of a stressor. You see, back in 1999, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona with someone who used to be a very good friend. Actually, I was probably in love with him. But long story short, things didn't quite work out, and I left him. In fact, things didn't quite work out so badly that my Scorpio came out, and I kind of burned him when I left him. A few years ago (October 2005, actually), I was thinking about him while roaming online and I thought about getting in touch with him and attempting to re-establish some sort of relationship with him. So I "googled" for his name and, instead of finding some sort of contact information for him (which is what I was hoping for), I came across his death notice (don't worry, his name is just buried on the page somewhere).

That sent my depression into a dovetail, especially considering that my car had recently been repossessed (illegally, I might add, but I won't get into that now). So I went out and did what any person who suffers from chronic depression and major depressive disorder would do when a truckload of stressors get dumped on one's doorstep: I went out and purchased some narcotics to use in an overdose cocktail. Suffice it to say, long story short, I got caught, was prosecuted, and have recently plead guilty to possession charges, even though my intent was to end my life, and not what most people would intend to do with narcotics (if you doubt me about this, consider that for the week I spent in jail after my arrest, I was on suicide watch in the forensics ward of the Westchester County Jail, and upon my release I went into a psychiatric hospital where I spent two months being re-medicated and badly counseled until I reached a point where I was sufficiently safe to leave the confines of a hospital setting, and could promise my doctors that I wouldn't try to hurt myself again).

So I've been sentenced to three years of probation, and I had to pay a fine, with a state-mandated surcharge.

Since the actual arrest took place in October 2005, and sentencing was in 2007, I guess I've had some time to deal with things. And I've had two other hospitalizations for my depression and suicidal thoughts in the interim (mostly recently, September/October 2006). And I've been doing a lot of reading lately, so I think that's helped.

I'm currently not in treatment, because I'm homeless, and I don't really know where I'm going to be living. I have an option to move to the Hartford, CT area, where my mother is currently trying to find housing (as I've blogged about before, her schmuck husband is divorcing her and trying to leave her penniless, and is requesting that she vacate the marital residence). It's more affordable up there, but I tried getting into treatment and was told about a two-month long waiting list at most of the facilities in the area. I have no support system up there, other than my mother (who can usually drive me more insane than I already am within about six hours of being subjected to her motherly-loving-nagging), and no friends in the area. Although in time, I supposed that could change. My other option is to wait for housing in Westchester County; I have an application in with the county's department of mental health, but there are waiting lists, and it could take up to two additional years to get housing, despite my being put near the top of the waiting lists and placed on special status (urgent needs).

So I'm kind of in flux right now, not in treatment, but trying to get my prescriptions filled (which isn't easy, as even the Emergency Rooms nowadays don't want to write out a prescription for you if you go in for an evaluation). Life isn't easy, but I managed to shock my case manager a few weeks or so ago, by telling her about my thoughts, that I was actually thinking about the future in a positive aspect, for the first time in probably about five years (since my car accident). (I think this news caused her heart to skip a few beats, but she recovered.) So even though I have all of these negatives in my life (thoughts and stressors and events and such), I'm actually probably doing better, mentally, as I can still think about what I might be doing two weeks from now, whereas in the past I couldn't even think I would be alive two weeks into the future, it was that bad.

OK, this post didn't exactly end up where I thought it would, but such is the nature of the blog. I have to write about some of the books I've read recently, as they've really helped me see things in a different light, and realize that I'm not alone in the world.